It takes equal measures of ample renovating experience and unbridled optimism to stand before a house that’s missing a roof and say: “Structurally the home was in excellent condition,” but that’s exactly what professional renovators Josh and Jenna Densten did when they first laid eyes on the dilapidated homestead that was to become their new home in Rutherglen, VIC.
But anyone who has been a fan of Josh and Jenna since they first appeared, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, as contestants on The Block in 2011, would know that they have a knack for seeing potential in houses that no one else would dare to touch.
Take their former home, Canning Cottage in inner-Melbourne, which eventually went on to win ‘Best Residential Design’ at the Australian Interior Design Awards in 2018. Before the pair worked their magic on that property, it was nothing but a tiny, badly updated, heritage-listed house with a shonky rear extension.
The move: From inner-Melbourne to regional Victoria
Canning Cottage was always supposed to be the family’s forever home, but in late 2021, after months of lockdowns and separation from family, Josh and Jenna began entertaining the idea of going back to their roots and moving to the country.
“We didn’t have a support network and the things we once loved about city life had really lost meaning,” says Jenna. That was when Josh spotted the Rutherglen homestead for sale on Facebook Marketplace. “We were first drawn to the property and from there we fell in love with the historic wine region, the food, the people and the beauty,” says Jenna.
Here, we track the renovation of their Rutherglen home, which was nicknamed ‘The Castle’ by the couple’s daughter Fred. “When we first drove up to the property, it had two tall brick chimneys sticking up into the air, with no roof! Its also perched up on a hill overlooking Rutherglen, so it had the presence of a castle,” says Jenna.
Josh and Jenna’s Rutherglen home renovation so far
Phase one: The ‘Shouse’
Josh and Jenna, who operate Plan Proofing, a design and renovation consulting service, knew that time was of the essence. They submitted their plans, permits and trades for the home during the settlement period. “By the time we moved up [to Rutherglen] things were moving fast!” says Jenna.
Because the home wasn’t in liveable condition, however, the family first needed to take up residence in a large shed on the property, which Josh and Jenna also transformed into a gorgeous family home.
“Shed life won’t be so bad. We’ve definitely lived in worse!” wrote Jenna on Instagram when they moved into the shed house in December 2021.
Phase two: The Castle house restoration
By November 2022, renovations of The Castle were well underway. “We are making great progress on the old home,” says Jenna before shooting off a list of all the jobs they’d already managed to tick off their to-do list: “We currently have a brand new shiny galvanised iron roof and bullnose verandah, all new timber double-glazed windows, internal base flooring down and the decking is starting this week!”
Jenna says one of the reasons they were able to progress with the updates so quickly is because the home was in such great structural condition.
“Someone knew how to build back in the late 1800s. We had to rip up old floorboards as they rotten and damaged in areas. Lucky for us, the sub floor was all red gum which was in as good condition as the day it was laid.”
The family had also adjusted to country living, with gusto. “The space we have here is really freeing. The chickens, our family, the vegie gardens and the shed parties have really filled our cup back up,” says Jenna.
First room reveal: The guest bedroom
In May 2023, the couple unveiled their first completed room: the guest bedroom. “My vision for this room was to create a whimsical and nostalgic guest bedroom with the view to become Story’s [the couple’s daughter] bedroom when the time is right,” wrote Jenna on Instagram.
“We incorporated a mix of old and new with whimsical wallpaper and soft green joinery. I wanted this room to feel cosy, layered and have a sense of history.”
Second room reveal: The girls’ bedroom
Then in July 2023, the couple revealed Fred and Story’s shared bedroom. “The inspiration behind the colour palette was not just Freddie’s favourite colour, pink, but also the history of the home,” says Jenna, referring to the home’s original painted-brick exterior.
The couple colour-drenched the room in Dulux Mornington, to create the room’s whimsical, warm atmosphere. “We love that the wall colour matches the skirting, it allows the generous space and fit out of the room to shine,” says Jenna.
Third room reveal: Rumpus room
Next was a multi-functional and family friendly space: the rumpus room. This room was also colour-drenched, this time in a serene shade of green, Dulux Paris Creek.
“It will be a place to play, gather, relax and enjoy,” the couple wrote on Instagram. “The very purpose of this room is to create a cosy and comfortable breakaway zone from the main living areas of the home.”
To maximise room and pack in as much storage as possible, the couple chose to include a mix of both built-in joinery and loose furniture.
“The renovation is in multiple parts, the heritage home restoration, the extension and the landscaping,” says Jenna. The couple are now knees deep in the build of their home’s modern extension, which reached lock up stage in July 2023.
The extension, which juts out from the home’s rear was designed to maximise natural light and take advantage of the properties glorious views all while preventing a shadow falling across the original homestead. It will encompass the home’s main living, kitchen and dining areas.
In October 2023, the couple unveiled their newly renovated hallway. “Here’s the hallway progress to date after a HUGE weekend of renovations,” the couple wrote on Instagram. The simply styled hallway features an understated, neutral colour palette and and brand new floor from Form Flooring.
While most of Josh and Jenna’s followers were amazed by the complete transformation, other eagle-eyed fans spotted a key detail missing: the original lead light windows surrounding the door. “The stained glass was broken and not energy efficient so we’ve replaced it with double glazing,” wrote Jenna in response to the comments. “For us, every efficiency is everything. One day we will get it replicated in double glazed,” she said.
While it would be wonderful to see every original detail restored, if you’ve ever renovated a heritage home, you’ll understand the challenge. Supportive followers praised Josh and Jenna for reviving a home that was in complete disrepair. “You’ve made this roofless structure … into a home,” wrote photographer Sophie Marsh.
Kitchen, living and dining room
The couple then returned to work on the modern wing of the house, completing the living, kitchen and dining room in November 2023. “Our extension is designed to be just right for our family—big enough for fun but not too much to handle. Easy maintenance, durability, and a connection to the outdoors were non-negotiables for us,” wrote Jenna.
Josh and Jenna have grand plans for the home’s exterior. “This property is about the exterior, more so than the interior,” says Jenna.
“We plan to utilise the land to nurture fruit, vegetables, animals and flowers.” They’ve even called upon landscape designer Phillip Withers to help create an “epic landscaping plan” that will complete the home’s incredible transformation.